Seeing as how it's a new year and all, and seeing as how this is a time for reflection, and starting anew...seeing as how part of starting anew is telling people secrets you probably don't want to carry around with you for the rest of your life....well, seeing as how all of that is considered to be fairly important, and vital to our sense of peace in this world, I have something I need to get off my chest.
Just once...well no, actually, it was several times this year, due to a rash that I couldn't seem to get rid of, a rash that I apparently got from some kind of fungus in my hot tub, or so the doctor speculated....I used steroids. I wanted to admit it before the tests come back. I wanted to make sure I don't fall into the familiar trap of trying to hide behind my lawyers, or saying I didn't know what it was I was taking. I did it. I used steroids. The cream. And it worked. It made the rash go away. Now does that justify my using them? That is where the real ethical question comes into play here. Did it make me a better writer? Did I type faster, or was I able to stay up and write late into the night because of these steroids? How can we ever know? Should any rewards I get in the upcoming year be afixed with an asterisk? Should I perhaps even be disqualified from consideration for the Pulitzer this year?
I contend that the most vital part of writing, the work of exploring yourself, and observing those around you for the foibles that you either do or don't understand, and trying to recreate these fantastic human qualities, cannot be enhanced by artificial means. Perhaps my performance was enhanced, but only in areas that have nothing to do with my brain. Or was there something sinister going on? Did I really want to get an edge? Was that why I agreed to take them? I had a choice, after all. I knew they could perhaps give me an edge, an edge that other writers don't enjoy. I knew it and I took them anyway. Perhaps it really was greed, and a desire to push myself just a bit further, without actually having to do the work. Most of these decisions we make can only be determined in hindsight. But it's clear that admitting to this stuff is just not fashionable. So I'd like to at least be recognized for taking this difficult step. That ought to be worth something, shouldn't it? I could try to explain it away. I could say, "Well, what about Hemingway and Faulkner and all those guys who used whiskey to fuel their productivity?" If this is the steroid era, that would clearly the booze era. But I just don't think I could live with myself if was standing on that stage, giving my acceptance speech, feeling that unnatural strength in my forearm that wasn't there a year ago, knowing where it came from, and wondering, wondering, wondering whether it contributed to the recognition I received. It's a matter of freedom in the end. Freedom from guilt. And I do feel better. Whether the rest of the world will forgive me is now immaterial. I have laid down my burden.